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‘Ham’ Turns Defense into Cheese

  by Richard Pavlicek

The North American Team Trials to select a representative for the 1987 Bermuda Bowl, the World Bridge Championship held in odd-numbered years, was completed last week in Memphis. Four teams, the winners of the four major North American championships, were paired in two 128-deal semifinal matches; then the winners met in a 128-deal final.

The team of Peter Pender, Hugh Ross, Chip Martel, Lew Stansby, Robert Wolff and Robert Hamman won the final match, defeating the team of Edgar Kaplan, Norman Kay, David Berkowitz, Harold Lilie, Bill Root and this writer. Today’s deal was played by Robert Hamman, considered by many today to be the world’s best bridge player.

3 S× South
N-S Vul
S J 9 8
H Q 10 7 3
D 10 6 5 4
C A 9

1 NT
2 S
1 H
3 D
1 S
3 S
S K Q 5
H 9 6 4
D A 9 2
C J 10 8 4
TableS 10
H A K J 8 5
D Q J 8 7
C Q 6 2

Lead: H 4
S A 7 6 4 3 2
H 2
D K 3
C K 7 5 3

Hamman, South, overcalled East’s opening bid with one spade and later competed to three spades after his partner’s raise. West doubled and led the heart four: three, jack. With all four hands in view it is evident that East could defeat the contract by returning the diamond queen. But this was not obvious to East, who shifted to the spade 10 in an attempt to reduce the ruffing power in dummy. Normally this would be sound defense; but in this case it gave Hamman an opportunity — which is like throwing raw meat into a cage of starving lions.

Declarer won the trump ace, crossed to the club ace and ruffed a heart. Then came the club king, club ruff, heart ruff and another club ruff as West helplessly followed suit. It still appears that declarer must lose two diamonds and two trumps (plus the heart lost earlier) to go down one, but that is an illusion.

Instead of leading fatally toward the diamond king, Hamman simply ruffed another heart. When West overruffed he was forced to return a diamond, which allowed South to win his king — and make his doubled contract. Even if West refused to overruff, declarer would exit with a trump to achieve the same result.

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© 1987 Richard Pavlicek